I like a clean shitter.
Everyone needs a public loo from time to time. Even public toilet conscientious objectors and germ phobes get caught short, perhaps they have to nip in because something’s gone wrong in the underpants region. I’m the first to admit I don’t visit my local public bathroom for the ‘good times’ (no comment on nefarious activities that happen after dark> George Michael and co. can keep those “secrets” to themselves).
For an agoraphobic with bad guts on the verge of panic and possible projectile vomit, the public toilet is the saving grace in an otherwise pristine white world which you fear besmirching with your anxiety juices. I am such an agoraphobe and this blog is my way of explaining my weird obsession with public toilets.
As an 18 year old art student I recall being asked in a class to name a place that made me feel safe and one that made me feel uncomfortable, some sort of idea generating exercise about interior construction and user friendly wank. I proudly stated that the lecture theaters made me want to hurl and the public loo was my saviour. I recall the looks I got were somewhat judgemental . That was 13 years ago and I can still feel the same invisible security field of safety when I get to a bathroom. My bat cave, or sacred ground, protection from the marauding zombies of panic who follow behind me moaning “brainnnnnnnssss, we want your anxiety juices and brainnnnnnssss”
But surely for me any toilet is a good toilet right? Nope. I find some just as revolting and disagreeable as the rest of you. The difference is that my need for safety outweighs my hatred of bad smells, other people’s liquids and likely semen residue on the door handle. Think past the CSI scenario going on in your head where hot ladies in yellow safety goggles, leather boots with high heels and latex gloves shine the blue light around looking for blood and cum.
So what makes one toilet better than another? I’m thinking beyond the most basic points; a lock, loo roll and the least possible amount of human waste on the walls/floor/door. I sat down with some almost equally toilet obsessed friends to discuss what made a good toilet good and how they would judge a bad toilet.
(Obviously) While a little gin soaked I “designed” (over gesticulated air quotes) a basic rating system which I use to grade each public convenience out of a possible 50 points. A 48-50 point loo is one you should definitely visit even if your bladder is empty and your bowels are solid. Maybe just pop in to just sit, enjoy the aura of great toilet design and comfort. A 0-10 point loo is one that only in the most dire of intestinal emergencies should you use, better to vomit or pee in the gutter rather than put yourself through that again.
My five areas of bathroom rateability are thus:
Cleanliness; pretty self explanatory, lack of residue of those who have been before you and the appearance that someone has wiped the seat down with disinfectant at some point in the last week.
Interior; Is the inside of the loo everything you had hoped? Sound proof, ventilated, paper supply, soap, smell, air freshener etc.
Exterior; where is it positioned on the street, who it’s owned by; evil corporate or small business? Where it is in the building; by the back door for a stealthy exit or right next to a big table so they ALL know how long you’ve been in there.
Safety; vital in my toileting needs, will I be stabbed by a crack addict as I leave the loo?
Over all comfort and snuggliness of use; are the people surrounding the loo mean douche bags? Are you in some bullshit bar filled with bitchy hair pullers and line jumpers? Is there spew on the floor and some girl crying over her boyfriend locked inside so you can’t get to the loo in the first place?
It’s a big deal in the business of toilet judging. A loo is not a nice place if someone has written “Hail Satan” on the door in their own faeces. A clean loo doesn’t have to be the newest but it needs to retain its up keep. Empty bins and sanitary disposal units (ohhh the pong when they are left too long) If some kind soul has decided to piss all over the entire rack of loo paper I would like it to be changed, not left to yellow and wrinkle in the warm humid air of the vestibule. Soap is nice, even if you carry hand sanitiser you know it’s nicer to have clean hands when you leave the bathroom even if it’s just so you look like you’ve cleaned your hands to avoid worrying that people think you haven’t when leaving the loo. I fear an imaginary buzzer going off over my head ala the Gary Larsen cartoon which says “DIDN’T WASH HANDS!!!!”. Basically I would like to have an odourless or low odour, dry seat experience with decent supplies and as little general refuse hanging about on the floor/sink as possible. Not too much to ask.
The inside of the loo can be gorgeous, unappetising, ordinary or just plain weird. Some have strange signs which seem to point out things that don’t need pointing out. I like a loo with a lock on the door, nothing worse than trying to balance your foot under the door and pee while wobbling on one foot. A toilet with adequate ventilation is a bonus, not just for the fear of your own smells and sounds but for the smells and sounds of those before and after you. I like an internal door; in fact I like as many barriers between my panic and the outside world as possible. A bathroom which leads straight off the main café/restaurant/bar/street is less comforting to me. I want more than one loo in a place, more than 3 if possible. That way I don’t have to worry about the amount of time I am spending sitting there collecting myself trying to placate my nausea. If there is one or two toilets people start to get antsy and start knocking on the door which is very unsettling. A single loo in a busy situation brings far too much attention which is the thing I’m trying to hide from in the first place.
Where is the loo? If it opens out on to a main road like the Mt Albert public loo then that isn’t the best situation. I want anonymity, to get in and get out without feeling the eyes of everyone in the surrounding mile on the wind whipped back of my head. A toilet which is just around a corner or behind a food truck, at the back of the restaurant perhaps down some stairs is nice so I can feel an unrealistic sense of sneaky hiding when I shuffle down and bolt myself inside for some much required relaxing breathes. Is there an angry looking café/shop girl staring at you? Will they ask you if you’re a customer and if not whether you intend to buy something now you have used their facilities? Does it have a sign showing me where to go? Or will I be left to just wander about the place looking like a retard who has lost her minder just because I want a wee? Is there parking nearby? If you’re out and about and a panic attack arises will I be able to drive on up, stop, fling my door open and bowl straight in or will I have to drive around 8 times to find somewhere to stop that isn’t going to get me ticketed or towed (no one wants to explain to a surly tow driver that you parked in the middle of the footpath because you really really needed a shit do they. They won’t let you off anyway)
Is it a known haunt for crack addicts/hookers and their clients/street gang initiations? I’m not a huge fan of having to listen to someone shooting up in the stall beside me and fearing that any second the police will bust through the door and catch you with your pants down because they broke down the wrong toilet door. I’d rather not have to pick my way through used condoms and needles to get to the hand soap either, yes I’m looking at you Symonds Street/K’rd public toilet.
Comfort and general snuggliness
I have been in many places where the up keep of the loo and the facilities offer by the proprietor have not been the deciding factor in my distaste for a bathroom. Vomit on the floor and a sense that vomit has been here very recently are not my fav, nor are angry patrons punching mirrors around the sink area. If there is only one toilet available and it has a crying/spewing/coma-ed teenage girl in it then I would like to be provided with a second bathroom for the grown-ups who can hold their liquor. Internationally speaking a bathroom where the person speaks enough English or I speak enough of the local tongue to request a bathroom at very short notice is a bonus. It is because of this fact that I try to learn to say “Where is the toilet?” in most languages before I enter a new country. As a traveller I am a master at toilet spotting and a collector of correct change to use at pay per use loos across Europe and England.